For small and medium-sized enterprises, search engine optimisation (SEO) offers the chance to compete with bigger players without busting the bank. But with recent changes to Google’s search algorithm, many are asking whether SEO is dead. And if it is,what does that mean for small business?
First, a Look at the Field
Worldwide, Google search engines process an average of:
40,000 search queries per second
3.5 billion searches per day
1.2 trillion searches per year
In August 2014 alone, Australians spent 37 hours online over 61 sessions with 32 billion pages viewed, according to a report by consumer behaviour analyst Nielsen. When it comes to the percentage of consumers who conduct online research before purchasing a product or availing themselves of a service, data varies according to product category, age group and continent.
But Google searches have been declining since 2009, with the current rate of decline estimated at 10% per year. Millennials are increasingly using Facebook to search for information on products.
Such competition has spurred Google to deliver better quality search engine results by penalising websites that practice ‘black hat’ SEO tricks such as keyword stuffing. It has done this through a series of updates in the past few years that focus on context and conversational searching. In early May, Google confirmed releasing an algorithm update that improved website ranking according to quality, albeit without providing details. In April, an update dubbed ‘Mobilegeddon’ rewarded websites that gave users a friendly mobile experience.
So Can Small Businesses Still Benefit from SEO?
Definitely. Small businesses might even have an advantage over larger ones — in fact, by the time ‘Mobilegeddon’ rolled out in April this year, many Fortune 500 companies had not yet made their websites mobile-friendly. Smaller businesses had an advantage because they tended to have fewer online pages to convert and fewer decision makers to consult.
How Can Small Businesses Use SEO Effectively?
Companies must look at SEO as a marketing strategy rather than just one of its tools. Here are four things small and medium-sized companies can do to be more competitive and visible online:
As mentioned above, online users are increasingly searching for products on Facebook.
Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn are key drivers of traffic as well, depending on your audience.
TIP: Use your social media profile to increase links to your website and blog, as well as give you additional opportunities to use the keywords that you want to rank for.
Or change the way you look at keywords.
Google’s search engine crawlers have gotten smarter. No longer do they just look for a string of words; they look at what those words mean in relation to one another and to the rest of the content on that page.
TIP: Long-tail keywords are more effective than generic keywords, and better reflect what searchers really look for. This means that instead of searching for “content marketing”, an entrepreneur might type “content marketing benefits for small business” or “how content marketing can benefit SMEs”. Instead of just searching for “writing tips”, a marketing manager would more likely search “writing tips for marketers” or “how marketers can improve their writing”. Long-tail keywords that begin with What, When, Where, Why and How are more conversational and are more similar to what searchers actually type.
This means having a website that is easily navigable and loads quickly. It means that when a reader is viewing your website on her mobile phone, she doesn’t have to scroll horizontally to read a sentence, or zoom in to decipher words.
TIP: Attract the eye with photos, videos and/or graphics; let the eye rest with enough white space. Since Google wants to please readers, it’s less likely to send a mobile searcher to a page that’s cluttered and slow.
Publish frequently and consistently. For blogs, it’s best to publish daily; Tweets can be sent out three times a day; LinkedIn posts can be scheduled thrice a week. As with all content marketing strategies, these numbers may increase or decrease depending on your buyer persona. The more authentic pages you create focusing on a certain topic, the better chance you have of ranking high for it.
TIP: Write relevant, timely posts by tying your topic to news, especially industry developments. For instance, when Facebook began its Instant Articles trial, the Internet buzzed, and so did we.
These are only a few tips on how small businesses can use SEO effectively. Try practicing these and see the results. And always keep in mind that:
In the end, excellent SEO means an excellent user experience.